This post originally appeared on The Daily Nole on July 15, 2016
Former Florida State players De’Cody Fagg and Leroy Smith are watching things come full circle in their hometown of Quincy.
Fagg is now the director of the city’s parks and recreation department while Smith is the intervention specialist at James A. Shanks Middle School. This summer, both will be hosting football camps as a way to reach the youth and give back to the community that helped raise them.
“A lot of kids from small cities are told they can’t make it or are told a lot of negative things,” Fagg said. “It’s also showing kids that we did it and that they can too. I grew up playing on these same fields. Some of the programs at the parks and recreation department I work for now are ones I came up through.”
Fagg, a wide receiver, played for the Seminoles from 2004-07, tallying 1,654 yards receiving and five career touchdowns. His 132 catches rank 10th in school-history. On Aug. 6, Fagg will host his third annual “Skills and Techniques Football Camp” where children will be able to work under the tutelage of Fagg and other former Seminoles, including Ernie Sims, Geno Hayes, Abdul Howard, Rodney Gallon and Corey Fuller. Fagg and Smith recently helped out with Sims’ camp in Tallahassee.
“One thing about us in this big bend area is we tend to help each other out a lot,” Fagg said. “Growing up, we didn’t have the opportunity where people would come back and host these free camps here. That’s one of the reasons I came back and started doing these camps.”
The camp takes place at Corry Field from 10:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. EST. The camp is for ages 4-17 and free. Registration will begin at 10 a.m.
“I try to always have it the first week in August to basically warm up the kids for the season,” Fagg said. “I want to see them get some fundamentals down before they go join their teams and coaches.”
Leroy Smith played cornerback for FSU from 2000-04, recording six career interceptions, including picks he took back for touchdowns against Notre Dame in 2003 and versus Clemson in 2004. Smith’s sixth annual “WIN-WIN Football and Cheerleading Camp” comes a bit earlier on July 22. WIN-WIN stands for “What’s Important Now, Work is Necessary”.
“When you have all kinds of people in the community coming together for a common goal, it’s a win-win,” Smith said. “Ive just taken what I learned from (former FSU defensive coordinator) Mickey Andrews and (head coach) Bobby Bowden and all my high school coaches and I’ve implemented it into my camp.”
Smith’s camp will cater to boys and girls ages 5-17 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. EST at Carter-Parramore Academy. For some of the children, it will be followed with an all-night lock-in at Hampton Inn. The camp is $30, but campers will receive gift bags, wrist bands, water bottles, t-shirts and other items. They’ll also be entered in a raffle for four tickets to Walt Disney World.
Proceeds from the camp will go to Smith’s nonprofit “Diamonds in the Rough” which is a youth sports and education program. Big supporters, Smith said, have been the Gadsden County Tourism Development Council and Carter-Parramore principal Keith Dowdell.
“With everything that’s going on in the world, we’re just trying to instill a healthy and positive work ethic with our youth,” Smith said. “We don’t want anyone to feel they’re entitled. We’re trying to fight the entitlement epidemic that is going on with our youth. Kids might have to mow grass or rake leaves or do extra chores around the house (to raise money to attend).”
Former Seminoles who will be attending Smith’s camp include Fagg, Sims, Dexter Carter and perhaps former receiver Robert Morgan. Morgan works as a law enforcement officer in Georgia and with a growing national rift between police and the black community, Smith is hoping Morgan could provide some perspective to bridge the gap. According to the Florida Department of Health, 56 percent of Gadsden County is black.
While children will get some valuable on-the-field lessons from athletes who played at the highest level of college football and for some, the National Football League, Fagg and Smith hope children can leave with some life lessons as well.
“I’m trying to teach the kids to be respectful, listen to your parents, do your school work and then sports come after that,” Fagg said. “My main focus is to get kids off the street each year and to become involved in something and get these kids on the right track. The more we get the kids involved, the more successful we’ll be.”
Fagg and Smith also noted that children don’t seem to be as active as when they were young. The camps, they said, are a chance to also promote exercise and health. Smith’s camp will have a health fair that runs simultaneous with different health programs and vendors. Smith noted that Gadsden County ranks in the top 100 in the U.S. when it comes to obesity.
“When we were kids, we didn’t have all the games they have today,” Smith said. “It’s on another level. Kids don’t go outside like we used to.”
Smith had about 190 children attend his camp last year and has room for 300 this year. Fagg had close to 200 last year and is also expecting larger numbers.
“I think it’s going to be bigger because I’m getting calls from teams in Alabama and Georgia and outside the big bend area,” Fagg said. “I think it’s going to be bigger and better than last year. Quincy is a big sports town. I’m hoping to bring some excitement back to my community.”
As rewarding as giving back to their hometown can be, the two former Seminoles each said the biggest reward was being able to see a change in some of the children while watching others come up through the ranks to get to college. FSU tackle Derrick Kelly and Qwuantrezz Knight, who will be a freshman safety this year at Maryland are a few of those who came through the camps and recreation programs to get to college. Smith said he watched another child with behavior issues improve his grade point average from a 1.8 to a 3.5 while becoming a leader among his peers.
“I never thought I would come back to Gadsden County, but I think the lord put me here for this purpose,” Smith said. “That’s worth all the money to see the kids believe in themselves. I tell the kids there were things that I didn’t want to do, but I had to do it. I had to think about the goals I had for my life. There’s a lot of opportunity out there, but you have to have a positive attitude and a strong work ethic.”